Call to reform EU’s €7.5bn NGO budget

ngo study

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Brussels, 24 SeptemberThe European Union spends €7.5 billion a year on non-governmental organisations, even if some of them act against the public interest, according to a new report.

Helping Themselves says that spending on NGO’s encourages a culture of professional lobbying and fundraising by politicised charities who no longer reflect the public’s priorities. It proposes radical measures to reform the way the EU spends money on its policy objectives.

The report, published by Brussels think-tank New Direction, makes six recommendations for reforming EU spending on NGO’s, which are paid by the European Commission to fulfil its agenda in areas such as the environment, economic development and global poverty.

LFMI policy analysts and authors of the study Zilvinas Silenas and Adolfas Mackonis say that the measures are needed to stop NGO’s lobbying for policies from which they benefit, and to encourage them to seek more of their income from voluntary donations. At the same time the EU should broaden the range of organisations it works with and be more open about how its money is spent.

“EU spending on NGO’s does not reflect citizens’ wishes, it’s biased against poorer countries, biased against wealth creation, and favours big charities who are expert at lobbying,” said Silenas. “We need to move to a system that is much more open and respects the wishes of Europe’s people.”

According to the report, if the EU’s NGO budget were spent more efficiently it could help support up to 180,000 jobs.

Tom Miers, Director of New Direction added: “There’s an unhealthy symbiosis developing here between powerful NGO’s and the EU where they’re often just helping themselves instead of Europe’s citizens. Charities should focus on raising more funds from ordinary people, and the EU needs to be much more business-like in the way it spends our money”.

The recommendations made in the report are:

  • EU spending on NGO’s should reflect the public’s priorities.
  • They should be discouraged from making repeat funding applications to the EU.
  • They should not receive more than 40% of their income from government (some charities receive as much as 75% from state sources)
  • Projects funding NGO’s should follow the same procurement rules used for buying other services.
  • Contracts should not be awarded to organizations with politicians or officials in senior positions
  • EU funds spent by member states should be reported in the same way as those distributed directly by the EU.

The report in full is available here: